Dec. 8, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - In The Pit
Saturday: New Mexico Lobos 65, Valparaiso Crusaders 52
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
OK, you can use the word "sloppy" in this 65-52 Lobo win. But don't aim that word at Lobos. That label is slapped on the Valparaiso Crusaders, who had 23 turnovers - 13 more than the undefeated New Mexico Lobos. It was a killer stat.
"We thought we could turn them over," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford. "That's 23 possessions that are empty. You do that against us at home and that makes it difficult."
The Lobos were more or less "workmanship" in a game that did become sort of a grinder for the Lobos. The win will carry UNM into finals week and also will carry them undefeated into a full week of preparation for the New Mexico State Aggies.
Mark that game and date on your calendar and hurry to the Lobo Ticket Office because it's fast approaching sellout status: Aggies vs. Lobos; 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 15. In The Pit. Be there.
The Valparaiso Crusaders tried to be the first team to slap a stain on New Mexico's record, but never really became a serious threat in The Pit. The Lobos went up 29-25 at the half and slowly pulled away from Valparaiso.
"I thought it would be a grind tonight," said Alford. "We knew this would be a hard one."
Alford said a lot of energy was burned in UNM's Wednesday night win over a big, physical USC team. The Crusaders got 24 points and seven boards from Ryan Broekhoff but no other Crusader took much of a bite out of the Lobo defense.
UNM scored 22 points off turnovers. "That's huge," said UNM's Alex Kirk.
The Lobos won the board battle 25 to 22, but Valparaiso had only one offensive board as they usually would take a shot and then back pedal back on defense. The Crusaders also swarmed the glass on their defensive end. Hugh Greenwood led UNM with six boards and 6-9 Cameron Bairstow had five.
The Crusaders shot well - especially when Broekhoff was shooting - and shot 52.9 percent in the second half and 48.6 percent for the game. UNM shot 54.5 percent in the second half and 42.6 percent overall.
A key for UNM was leading by four at the half despite shooting 32 percent in the first 20 minutes.
"We got the ball inside a little more in the second half," said Kirk. "We kind of hit some shots at the end to pull away from them."
The Crusaders threw a lot of zone at the Lobos, but Alford said that was no surprise. "We knew they would try to slow things down a little bit," he said. "We knew we would see a lot of zone.
"We started going inside more and we got some stops and starting running more in the second half."
The Lobos had three players in double figures with 12 points: Chad Adams, Alex Kirk and Demetrius Walker. That trio combined to go 12-of-23 and UNM shot a toasty 54.5 percent in the second half to pull away for the comfortable 13-point win.
The No. 18/20 Lobos are now 10-0 with the next rankings coming out on Monday.
"It's been a very difficult stretch for our guys," said Alford. "It doesn't get any easier because they have a busy week to finish academically."
Adams -- who became a starter, in part, to move Demetrius Walker back to a guard spot -- again had a good shooting night for UNM. However, he said, "I focus more on the defensive end. That's what gets me going."
He said starting and getting more minutes - he played 26 vs. Valparaiso - helps get him "into the flow of things."
"It just gives you more confidence and makes you feel more comfortable out there," he said. "I just try to keep my composure, just stay focused, and not let it get to my head or anything."
Said Alford: "Chad has been tremendous. He has had a five, six game stretch where he's been special. We are asking a lot of him and he's really delivering for us."
The Lobos weren't sizzling at the line - 20 of 31 - but Alford said, "I did like how we got to the line against a zone defense." Valparaiso was 8 of 13 from the line.
The Lobos also had nine steals to four by the visiting team. UNM had nine players in the scoring column to six for Valparaiso. UNM had 23 points off the bench to 12 for the Crusaders.
"We have a lot of weapons," said Alford. "We win by 13 and Kendall Williams doesn't get a field goal (0-for-5). That's kind of the way it's been.
"But we have so many guys who can score that we become a difficult team to defend. We force teams to zone us and hope we don't get stagnant and (hope we) make shots."
Valparaiso cut UNM's halftime lead to 29-27 but then UNM ran up 41-30 at the 15:26 mark. The Crusaders cut their hole to 45-38 at 11:54, but UNM surged up 49-38, 53-41 and 59-44 with 4:03 to play on a Walker trey. That 15-point bulge pretty much put the game away.